University of Minnesota dining halls will be going trayless after a successful pilot on Earth Day in April. On that day, the removal of trays from the campus's six all-you-care-to-eat residential dining halls resulted in a 315 pound reduction in food waste, compared with a typical day when trays were available. The school will make the change permanently beginning this fall.
Trayless dining has caught on at an increasing number of colleges and academies where all-you-care-to-eat policies often result in customers loading up trays with far more food and drink than they consume. That results in not only a lot of wasted food but increased water, chemical and energy costs for washing extra dishes as well as trays. There is also anecdotal evidence that removing trays discourages overeating, an important consideration given the obesity epidemic.
UM’s campus dining is managed by Aramark, which recently released the results of a pair of studies examining trayless dining. They showed the approach to be effective in reducing waste, and also something most customers will accept.